St. Pete City Council members approved $350,000 for ferry service that would connect downtown St. Pete to Tampa. The funding comes from money the city was awarded as part of the BP oil spill settlement. The move comes as Council members continue to hold off on allocating larger funding proposals from the $6.5 pot.
The funding is contingent on funding from other sources including Pinellas County, the state and Tampa. The ferry would run as a five-month pilot during winter months when ferries aren’t used in northern cities like New York and Boston where they are common.
The city plans to rent a single ferry during those months to see how the project works before expanding into a longer-term service.
City Council chair Charlie Gerdes said he’s not worried about demand because there is so much traffic congestion in Tampa. He thinks people making the commute between the two cities for work are likely to welcome an additional transportation choice.
However, a single ferry would not provide the kind of reliable service necessary for most users to count on for transportation for professional purposes.
In previous discussions about ferry service, council members have also expressed interest in boosting attendance at Rays home games by offering additional transit options between the two cities.
Despite lacking complete funding, the city is moving forward with hunting for ferry providers for the project. The ferry project proposed by St. Pete officials is independent another being worked on in Tampa that would connect South Tampa to MacDill Air Force Base and eventually to Channelside and St. Pete if the initial project was successful.
That project is being pushed by former Tampa Mayoral candidate Ed Turanchik.
City Council members also voted to approve spending $250,000 toward the replacement of a USF research vessel known as the Bellows. The Florida Institute of Oceanography is estimated to spend as much as $500,000 annually in the city.
Both projects are contingent on outside funding for completion.